Regulator’s guidelines on Rajasthan power lines ‘flout’ Supreme Court orders, threaten the Great Indian Bustard: Petitioner

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Source: The post is based on the article “Regulator’s guidelines on Rajasthan power lines ‘flout’ Supreme Court orders, threaten the Great Indian Bustard: Petitioner” published in The Hindu on 6th March 2023.

What is the News?

The Central Electricity Authority(CEA) has released draft guidelines titled “Construction of Electric Lines in Great Indian Bustard Area Regulations, 2023”. 

What do these guidelines provide?

The guidelines proposed that electric lines of 33 kV and lower voltage, passing through the Great Indian Bustard area would have to travel underground  but that electric lines above 33 kV voltage passing through the area can do so overhead, as long as bird flight diverters are installed. 

These diverters are aimed at improving power line visibility for birds and reducing the risk of collision.

Why are these guidelines being opposed by Conservationists?

High Tension power lines in Rajasthan and Gujarat from solar plants often lie on the flight path of the birds. According to the Wildlife Institute of India(WII) report titled “Power Line Mitigation, 2018, every year 1 lakh birds of multiple species die due to collisions with power lines. 

The matter is of particular concern to the future of the Great Indian Bustard as fewer than 150 of them remain.

In 2019, environmentalists approached the Supreme Court, which directed all ‘low voltage’ power lines, in areas demarcated as “priority and potential habitats of the Great Indian Bustard” in Thar and Kutch deserts be pushed underground. This court order would have required several existing and proposed lines to move underground, hiking the cost of supplying solar power.

These draft regulations appear to be a way to circumvent the orders of the Supreme Court. Hence, if the regulations come into effect, this would lead to the extinction of the Great Indian Bustard which is the State Bird of Rajasthan. 

If this happens, it would be the second major species after the [Asiatic] cheetah to go extinct in post­ Independent India.

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